Google CEO Tells Staff China Plans Are ‘Exploratory’ After Backlash

Google CEO Tells Staff China Plans Are ‘Exploratory’ After Backlash

The report states that about 1,400 employees have signed the letter (PDF) and it's being circulated on the company's communication channels.

Disclosure of the secretive effort, which is codenamed Dragonfly, has disturbed some Google employees and human rights advocacy organizations. "I think if we were to do our mission well, I think we have to think seriously about how we do more in China".

But there's reason to think the employees might get their way - after they protested the company's work with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) on Project Maven back in April, Google announced plans to not renew the contract after it expires in 2019 (though it wouldn't go so far as to swear off all military contracts).

Outrage stems both from the nature of Dragonfly - a product that some employees feel violates the AI Principles - and that many employees only learned about the search product's existence from news reports, rather than their own bosses.

Addressing this, Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai told employees at a meeting that plans to re-enter China with a search engine are "exploratory" and in "early stages".

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Google is probably facing intense pressure to introduce more of its products in China, Mok said, but added that the company would lend legitimacy to government censorship if it debuted a censored search product in China. Google's employees said they need more information to determine whether it raises "urgent moral and ethical issues".

Google did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post. It says employees lack the information required "to make ethically informed decisions about our work" and complains that most employees only found out about the project after reading about in the press.

The letter is similar to one thousands of employees had signed to protest against Project Maven, a U.S. military contract that Google decided in June not to renew. While it still maintains offices in the country, it has been seeking to increase its presence.

Web users in China can't access Google's service because the government there blocks it as part of its sweeping censorship infrastructure, known as the "Great Firewall".

If Google decides to follow through on its plans, ut would not be the first time Google enters the Chinese market. The app is said to comply with Chinese government censorship guidelines.

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